The Gift of Metacognition

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 6.53.41 PM

In Press-Released in June 2018


We have a gift for your teachers that has value

far beyond the session with us. It is the gift that

keeps on giving; that prepares students for the test of life.

There is no gift as precious as the gift of metacognition.

Test of Life PD Description

Teaching kids…to think about their think, to learn about

their learning,  and learn how to understand how they

can solve their own problems.


In short, give teachers the greatest gift of all;

the gift of knowing what to do, when they don’t know what to do.

At RFAteachPD, we are experts on the thinking-side of schooling,

not so much on the right answer-side of getting by.


Invite us to spend professional learning time with your teachers, and

the tone, tenor and temperament of classroom instruction will take

a turn. Students become engaged and empowered bout their own learning,

through the reflective thinking.


Metacognition is beyond the cognitive. It allows students to step back

and think about what they are going, how it’s going and what to do next.

Yes, this day of classroom reflections with your teachers…taps into

the neglected skill of reflection, mindfulness for student success.


Thinking about thinking is the magic of the message we share,

along with the strategies that ring true as students develop a sense of

self agency…as they learn how to manage their learning and start using the

quick-win strategies to rigorously think through their own challenges.


About the book: Metacognition: The Neglected Skill Set for Empowering Students

How do we prepare youngsters for the test of life? We teach them how to learn when they are not being taught. In other words, we give them the gift of self-reflection, self-awareness, self-initiative, self-direction, self-assessment and self-regulation . . . as well as the gift of knowing when they know and when they don’t know.

Teachers Love the 30 Ready-to-use Strategies

Written with the teachers in mind. It is by far, more practical than theoretical, but most definitely grounded in research findings and connected to emergent data. With the 30 ready-to-use strategies in this book, teachers are introduced to or reminded of,  the metacognitive strategies that deepen learning through explicit reflection for student planning, monitoring and evaluating their work.

Students Love the Magic of Metacognition

At the same time, as students learn how to “think about their own thinking,” they become more aware and thus, better able to make the needed adjustments on their own. They gain a sense of ownership and teachers get the results they count on through student empowerment. Metacognition is like magic for 21st Century classrooms. It changes student behaviors before your eyes and enhances their journey for success.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 6.53.41 PM

The Two-Way Flow of Feedback

 The Two-Way Flow of Feedback

Brian M. Pete and Robin Fogarty, PhD

One of the most effective strategies to engage students in their own learning is modeling metacognition. This “thinking about one’s thinking” uncovers personalized feedback to the student. By modeling reflections on students’ work, students soon learn that their own reflective adjustments are what matters most as they grow and progress in their awareness of their own learning. They soon learn to use self-feedback techniques to scrutinize their own work.

In the process of becoming more reflective about their learning, students also understand that feedback isn’t about what’s wrong—it’s about what’s next.  With that in mind, there are many facets that guide the feedback flow for metacognitive reflection for appraising and improving student work.


Engaging students with feedback begins with teacher observations about what occurs in the teaching and learning process. That said, to know that the feedback flow actually is a two-way flow is significant. Stiggins, 2009; Wiliam, 2011, and Fogarty & Kerns, 2009, write richly about instructional opportunities to optimize feedback from students. They encourage teachers to pay close attention to the endless flow of student work samples, dialogues, peer conversations, homework, and routine instructional tasks. These constitute genuine feedback, cues, and clues about students’ learning. Truly, the observant teacher can glean much relevant data from students, as evidence of their learning.

The other notable way that feedback flows, of course, is the flow of finely-crafted teacher comments, hints, and suggestions to the students (Hatti, 2003; Hattie, & Templay, 2007).  Carefully providing feedback that is immediate, specific, relevant, and actionable is intended to move the students along. Yet, what seems most pertinent in this discussion is that the feedback comes from students to teachers and to students from teachers. This is that continuous, two-way back and forth between students and teachers and it’s how the magic of independent learning happens. It’s how the learning journey toward improvement and perfection is orchestrated in effective instructional scenarios. It’s how a sense of student agency develops.


Feedback from students embraces the power and productivity of formative assessments during the course of normal instruction, and allows for endless customizations to student learning. With routine, everyday feedback information gleaned from those deliberate, common learning tasks (work samples, class participation, and specific signaling strategies) that occur throughout the day, teachers can make decisions that truly personalize learning.

In fact, as teachers become aware of the power of optimizing student feedback, they realize that opportunities abound for insightful, metacognitive reflection as students interact in dialogues, small group conversations, and whole group discussions. Finally, there is evidence of rigorous feedback from kids as their thoughts are revealed in deliberate strategies including talk-alouds, problem-solving, and item analysis work-throughs.


Feedback explicitly flowing to students before, during, or following a learning session or work time, is determined most frequently, by the teacher. Yet peer feedback, partner back-and-forths, and even trios with a reflective observer in the group often can provide viable and useful coaching tips, hints, and clarifications to allow that student to continue on his way. As a result, students can be more effective and can develop a surefootedness, boosted by that emerging self-confidence.

This feedback to students is best done in a coaching way, not in a correcting way. That’s how students become empowered in their own right to take responsibility for correcting their work. Feedback informs and gives students control over their own learning.


Five strategies from a treasure trove of known and unknown, yet-to-be-invented feedback tactics illustrate how feedback in theory is transformed into feedback in practice. These examples can be woven into routine classroom interactions and are easily tweaked for elementary, middle, and secondary classes.

1. Stoplight Signals: Signal, Respond, Act

Signaling feedback automatically demands actions! You can use green, yellow, and red cards with students to signal you when they may need more help:

  • Show Green: “I’m moving right-along”
  • Show Yellow: “I have a question.”
  • Show Red: “How can I get unstuck? Here’s my thinking…”

2. Easy as 1,2,3!  Revisit, Question, Illuminate.

Student feedback on work samples exposes clarity and confusion. Have students reflect on their processes: “In 3 steps this is what I did: 1, 2, 3! Now, What?”

3. That’s Good Idea! Recognize, Acknowledge, Coach

Use specific feedback to guide students’ work:That’s a good idea because you use a clear graphic that shows you the big picture.”

4. Best Case, Worst Case: Whole Class, Small Group, Individuals

Feedback builds confidence! Have students reflect on their “glows” and “grows”:

“My best case is when I write from an outline; my worst case is when I don’t finish.”

5. Name, Scheme, Rank! Instruct, Improvise, Improve

Teacher feedback enhances performance achievement.

Ask yourself, and name what has worked in the past? Scheme. Ask a friend what s/he has used before? Scheme again. Ask one more person for input. Then rank the three ideas and move on.

Over-time, teachers can “feed” feedback strategies to students to ensure that metacognitive reflection becomes a part of the teaching and learning process. This attention to metacognition and customary, personalized, reflective thinking may well mark the subtle, yet, measureable distance between effective and highly effective teachers.


The strategies themselves are the practical tools for infusing personal, relevant feedback to teachers and to students. The essence of feedback as a verifiable and reliable strategy in the k12 classroom is more about the actual, student to teacher and teacher to student interactions. Staying connected, interested, and involved in student/teacher ongoing efforts allows critical information to be shared.

In sum, teachers capturing and responding to feedback from students optimizes cues and clues about student learning, while feedback to the student, based on the teacher’s informed observations, inferences, and decisions, maximizes learning for the students. This continuous flow of feedback information on our two-street fosters personalized learning models.


The Economist: What Works at What Cost? Effectiveness and Cost of Education Strategies. EEF EducEndowFound. (June 9, 2016;  Feb 8, 2018).

Fogarty, R. and G. Kerns. (2009). InFormative Assessment: When it’s Not About a Grade.  Thousands oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Hattie, J.  Teachers Make the Difference: What’s the Research Evidence? Distinguishing Novice from Experienced Teachers. University of Auckland
Australian Council for Educational Research, October 2003.

Hattie, J and Temperley, H. 2007. The Power of Feedback. Volume: 77 issue: 1, page(s): 81-112. Issue published: March 1, 2007

Jackson, R. (2017). The Anatomy of Good Feedback. Mindsteps, Inc.

Kerns, G. .2018. Personalized Learning: White Paper. WI : Renaissance Learning.

Wiliam, D. 2009. Embedded Formative Assessments. Melbourne, AU: Hawker Brownlow Education.